COTE D´IVORE: Jihadists attack a tourist resort
The armed group al-Morabitoun, with ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the attack on a resort hotel in the coastal area of Grand Bassam - the former capital of the country during the French colonial period, in what was the first jihadist attack in the country. In the attack, which was carried out by between three (according to AQIM) and six (according to the Government) assailants, and Cote d'Ivoire Minister of the Interior Hamed Bakayoko said that at least 14 civilians (including four Europeans) and two Ivorian soldiers were killed and 33 people were injured. The minister reported that the victims included Ivorian nationals, in addition to people from France, Germany, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cameroon. The Government also reported that three of the six assailants who participated in the attack on the beach and three hotels (L'Etoile du Sud, Wharf Hotel and Koral Beach) were killed by security forces. After attacks on tourist facilities in Bamako and Ouagadougou in 2015, Cote d'Ivoire had been on alert since the country was considered a jihadist target for its role in the war in Mali and for the support it had provided to the French operation Barkhane. (El País, 14/03/2016; Reuters, 14/03/2016; Deutsche Welle, 14/03/2016)
EGYPT: The government convenes an emergency security meeting due to the violence in Sinai and continues its strategy of repression against human rights activists
Following the mortar attack for which ISIS claimed responsibility and which killed 13 police officers at a checkpoint in the city of Arish in the Sinai Peninsula in mid-March, the government of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi convened an emergency meeting with the security forces. Participants included senior officers of the Egyptian Army and the police, as well as the ministers of defence and the interior and the purpose of the meeting was to coordinate the response to the escalation of violence on the peninsula. According to media reports, in addition to the incident in Arish, several other episodes of violence in Sinai in March had killed around 10 more police officers and soldiers, while air strikes against combatants and an alleged ISIS training camp had caused the deaths of around 30 militants. Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities continued to crack down on dissident groups, human rights advocates and feminist activists. In late March, the situation led UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein to voice serious concern about the closing of hundreds of NGOs and the persecution of human rights activists since November 2014. The diplomat demanded an end to these actions and defended the right of these organisations to receive money to promote human rights advocacy. Many NGOs are being investigated for receiving money from abroad, allegedly illegally. These include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the El Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and the group Nazra for Feminist Studies. In late March, 43 women’s organisations and 130 academics spoke out against the persecution of Nazra’s activities. Political activists and journalists are also being subjected to travel bans. Also in March, it was reported that the Supreme Judicial Council forced over 40 judges into retirement for refusing to recognise the legal nature of the military’s coup d’état against the Islamist government of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Finally, after coming under pressure from Italy, the Egyptian authorities extended the investigation into the case of the Italian student Giulio Regeni, who was found dead in January showing signs of torture. Cairo has linked his case to the activity of a criminal group, but suspicions have been raised about the alleged responsibility of the Egyptian security forces. (The Guardian, 19, 27, 29, 31/03/16; UN News, 24/03/16; BBC, 19/03/16; Middle East Monitor, 22/03/16)
EL SALVADOR: State of emergency declared in the country in response to a spike in violence and murders
Growing concern in the country amid rising violence in the first months of the year led the Salvadoran Government to decree a state of emergency in the territories most affected by violence. The Administration also announced that it was launching a security plan called “El Salvador Seguro”. According to the head of state, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the measures are intended to reduce the number of violent deaths, which increased in 2016 by 107% compared to the same period in 2015, with more than 1,630 murders from January 1 to March 13. The plan includes steps to increase the presence of police and military personnel and reinforce security in prisons. In addition, an initiative was launched to reduce crowding in prisons by releasing prisoners that are "very old or have terminal illnesses and do not pose a risk to the population”. In response to the Administration’s proposals, the country's main gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha, 18 Revolutionaries and Sureños, released a video promising to contain the violence if the Government decided not to go ahead with the special measures. President Sánchez Cerén rejected the offer and announced that he would continue with the plan. At the end of the month, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, declared a state of emergency in seven of the country's prisons, as part of the extraordinary measures and moved the leaders of the gangs to the Quezaltepeque prison, where tighter restrictions were imposed including isolation and cutting off communications. (EFE, 08, 14/03/2016; ElSalvador.com, 08, 10-11, 13-15/03/2016; La Página, 26-27/03/2016; El Salvador Noticias.net, 29/03/2016)
HONDURAS: Environmental activist’s murder shocks country
On March 3, several armed men murdered environmental activist Berta Cáceres in her home in La Esperanza. Cáceres was the leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). In the attack, Gustavo Castro, the director of the Mexican organization Otros Mundos Chiapas, was also wounded. Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in April 2015 for her opposition to the construction of the hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River in Agua Zarca, which threatened to displace hundreds of indigenous people. Since 2009 the indigenous Lenca leader was under so-called “precautionary measures” because she had received death threats. The protection was issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which demanded to know why the Government had not provided protection for the activist. Her murder shocked and angered the country and it triggered a show of solidarity and condemnation by different national and international human rights groups, including organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, La Vía Campesina or Global Witness, who have demanded an independent inquiry by the Honduran government to discover the truth, as well as steps to protect Honduran activists. Subsequently, on March 15, another COPINH leader, Nelson García, was murdered in the town of Rio Lindo, Cortés department. According to the NGO Global Witness, Honduras is the most dangerous country for environmental activists, with at least 109 reported killings between 2010 and 2015. In its annual assessment of human rights around the world Amnesty International also denounced the violence and intimidation suffered by various Honduran groups, such as human rights defenders, journalists, justice administration officials, LGBTI groups, in addition to indigenous, peasants and Afro-descendant leaders involved in land disputes. (Amnesty International, 02/2016; EFE, 24/02/2016; Reuters, 03/03/2016; Global Witness, 04/03/2016; Criterio, 15/03/2016; El Faro, 16/03/2016)
KOREA, DPR: UN Security Council unanimously approves a resolution extending sanctions on North Korea owing to its nuclear and missile tests
Tension mounts in the Korean peninsula after the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution (2270), brought by the USA and China, extending sanctions on North Korea in the wake of the launch of a satellite in February which several countries claim violates the Security Council’s ban on carrying out ballistic missile tests. According to a number of analysts, the warhead tested was twice as powerful as previous ones tested and had a range of 12,000 kilometres. Shortly after this resolution was approved, on 7 March South Korea and the USA engaged in the biggest military drills seen in recent years. A short while later, the US President signed the order imposing new sanctions on North Korea following a hydrogen bomb test in January and owing to the aforementioned ballistic missile testing. Following the approval of the Security Council resolution and the start of the military drills mentioned, North Korea launched short-range missiles off its east coast on three occasions in early and late March, as well as a medium-range missile in mid-March, which was strongly condemned by the UN Security Council and its Secretary-General. Moreover, at the start of the month, the leader of North Korea stated that the nuclear warheads he claims the country possesses are ready to be used at any time. He called on the government to continue to conduct the nuclear tests and announced that the country had miniaturised the warheads so they can be mounted on ballistic missiles, which is one of the biggest fears of the international community. Nevertheless, both China and Russia stated that they will not acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power. Pyongyang also cancelled all its economic cooperation programmes with South Korea. Indeed, South Korea had ended cross-border cooperation and restricted access to the Kaesong industrial complex in January, and later in February had ordered the complex to be closed, deeming that it was being used to fund North Korea’s arms programme. North Korea reacted to these measures by expelling South Korean staff from the complex, freezing the assets of the companies based there and warning about the likelihood that the complex would be militarised. Some media outlets have stated that North Korea’s reaction in the wake of the Security Council resolution was very similar to that it gave after the Security Council imposed new sanctions on the country following its third nuclear test in 2013. (New York Times y Reuters, 02/03/16; CNN, 17/04/16; Washington Post, 20/03/16; BBC, 06/03/16; Guardian, 08/04/16)
PAKISTAN: Attack by the group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar kills 72 in Lahore
An attack in the city of Lahore kills 72. A bomb went off in a park near a children’s playground, leading to this high death toll, including at least eight children, even if other sources mention a much higher number of children dead. The park was full of people at that time of day, resulting in 280 people being injured. A Taleban faction, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed the attack and said it was targeting the Christian population celebrating Easter. In their message they also mentioned they were trying to show their presence in the province of Punjab. The group, which broke away from the Taleban insurgency two years ago, would be trying to gain position within the insurgency and was trying to tap into the public dissatisfaction after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, accused of firing at the governor of Punjab, who had tried to protect the Christian minority, in 2011. A 25-year-old was responsible for carrying out the suicide attack. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled a trip to the United Kingdom. The Government of Punjab signalled that the security operation following the attack would be led by the police and supported by the army. This implies that the Government hasn’t granted additional power to the military, as was requested, to carry out a military operation against the insurgency. On another note, days before, a bomb exploded on a bus carrying government officials in the city of Peshawar, killing 15 and injuring 30. (The Guardian, 28, 29/03/16; Al Jazeera, 16/3/16)
SOMALIA: Clashes intensify between al-Shabaab and Puntland security forces
Continuing offensives by Somali security forces and AMISOM, backed by covert operations by US special forces, have forced the al-Shabaab armed group to retreat to the north after losing control over strongholds in the centre and south of the country. In this regard, on March 21, the military commander of the region reported that 65 al-Shabaab militants were killed during several military actions launched by the armed group in coastal towns in Puntland. 31 other militants were captured, including several children. The attacks of the armed group have increased during the year in an attempt to destabilize the Federal Government, which intends to organize elections this year. The Government sent in aircraft with military equipment and provisions for the Somali forces in the region. Meanwhile, on March 5 attacks by US manned and unmanned aircraft executed up to 150 people suspected to be al-Shabaab members at Raso Camp, 120 miles north of Mogadishu, where the jihadist group was allegedly building a training base. Furthermore, the southern region of Jubaland, with its capital in Kismayo, seems to be a success story in AU efforts to pacify the country, according to the weekly newspaper The East African. The different armed groups and militias from the Juba valley have been reintegrated into society and have collaborated with AMISOM to disband al-Shabaab and drive it out of the region. (The Independent, 07/03/16; AMISOM, 17/03/16; Radio Kulmiye, 22/03/16; The East African, 29/03/16)
TUNISIA: ISIS attacks in the city of Ben Guerdane, near the Libyan border, triggers an escalation of violence that claims at least 70 lives
A coordinated and unprecedented attack by ISIS against Tunisian police and national guard buildings triggered an escalation of violence in Ben Guerdane, a city of around 600,000 inhabitants located 32 kilometres from the Libyan border. Around 50 assailants launched the attack and used megaphones to urge the people to rise up. The fighting between ISIS combatants and Tunisian forces killed 36 attackers, 12 members of the security forces and seven civilians on the first day of the battle, 7 March. The assault was halted in a few hours, but in the days that followed, anti-jihadist operations conducted in the area claimed the lives of another 10 alleged members of ISIS and led to the discovery of arsenals belonging to the armed group. The week before the coordinated attack on Ben Guerdane, another ISIS cell had infiltrated the suburbs of the city and five militants who had made plans in a house were shot dead after a siege lasting several hours. The violence in Ben Guerdane during the first half of March killed at least 70 people. The government reported that the attack by ISIS was intended to proclaim a new province and announced an extension to the state of emergency in the country, which suffered from various bloody attacks in 2015. Media reports stated that Ben Guerdane is a strategic city, considered a gateway into Libya and an area for smuggling weapons and goods. Tunisia has built a 200-kilometre barrier with Libya in an attempt to block the entry of fighters, but it has not prevented movement on both sides of the border. Troops in the area had been on alert since last February, when a US air strike on a training camp in Libya killed scores of ISIS militants, most of them Tunisian citizens. (Al-Jazeera, 07/03/16; Le Monde, 09/03/16; Jeune Afrique, 22/03/16)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): Further displacements of population due to violence in Kurdish urban areas
Tens of thousands of people were displaced from the districts of Yüksekova (Hakkari province) and Nusaybin (Mardin province) due to violence. In mid-March, the government began new military operations against the PKK, with curfews and the deployment of 20,000 additional troops in those districts and in the centre of the city of Sirnak, in the province of the same name. Meanwhile, the siege of Cizre was partially lifted on 1 March. Cizre is one of the cities that have been punished the most by the escalating violence in recent months. The Turkish opposition party CHP issued a report that described the indefinite curfews in the provinces of Diyarbakir and Mardin as “illegal”, indicating that the civilian population remained trapped between the illegal practices of the AKP and the violence of the PKK. The Kurdish movement criticised the new military operations and made new calls for dialogue as part of the Kurdish New Year (Newroz) on 21 March. Meanwhile, the armed conflict continued to involve bombardments by the Turkish Army against PKK targets in northern Iraq, as well as attacks by the PKK. The armed group TAK (considered linked to the PKK) claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack in Ankara that killed 36 people and wounded over 100. According to the think tank ICG, the death toll in March included 52 members of the security forces, at least 40 civilians and no less than 25 members of the PKK. Erdogan claimed that 5,359 PKK militants had been killed, wounded or arrested in antiterrorist operations between 22 July 2015 and the end of March. The Anadolu Agency reported that 377 members of the security forces and 285 civilians had been killed during this period. Moreover, a suicide attack attributed to ISIS in Istanbul killed half a dozen people and injured around 40. (Hürriyet, Firat, Bianet, 1-31/03/16)
UGANDA: The NRM party of the re-elected Yoweri Museveni also wins the election by a wide margin
The National Resistance Movement party (NRM) of the recently re-elected president, Yoweri Museveni, who won the February 18 presidential elections, also won the parliamentary elections by a wide margin on the same day and took more than two-thirds of the 427 seats in Parliament. Nevertheless, at least 17 ministers lost their seats in the elections, and the electoral commission announced that the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), had won 40 seats and the Democratic Party 15. The elections were described as chaotic and plagued with numerous irregularities, according to several international observers. The opposition called the elections a fraud. Election Commission Chairman Badru Kiggundu, who has chaired the commission in the last two presidential elections, apologized for the substantial problems that voters encountered when voting in the capital, Kampala, and in nearby Wakiso, both opposition strongholds. After the results were announced incidents and fighting broke out between demonstrators and security forces. At least 10,000 people moved within the Bundibugyo district (western Uganda) as a result of post-election violence, in which nine people died and four were injured. Supporters and opponents of Museveni clashed in the Wakiso and Masindi districts and at least 10 people were injured. At the end of the month, the death toll in the Bundibugyo district rose to 28. Finally, on February 29 Kizza Besigye was once again arrested and put under house arrest. From 18 February until early March, Besigye was arrested nine times. (The Daily Monitor, 01/03/16; The New Vision, 26/03/16)
ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAKH): Armenian and Azerbaijani forces trade blame for breaking the ceasefire
The unstable situation continued in the Nagorno-Karabakh border area, with fresh mutual accusations by the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces of violating the ceasefire. The Azerbaijani government claimed that it had fired on Armenian positions to prevent them from attacking the town of Aqdam. However, military representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh denied having attacked the civilian population in Aqdam and claimed that Azerbaijani forces had attempted to enter territory under their control. The Azerbaijani foreign ministry said that between 10 and 15 Armenian soldiers had been killed, but the Armenian forces denied that they had suffered any casualties. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in the United States with US Secretary of State John Kerry to attend a nuclear security summit. Kerry called for a definitive solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Aliyev stated that any solution to the conflict requires the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces. (RFE/RL, 11, 31/04/16)
BANGLADESH: 11 people die in violence during local elections
At least 11 people died in the violence triggered during the local elections held on March 22. The opposition also denounced widespread election fraud. According to the police, seven of the people who died were gunned down by security forces. Much of the electoral violence occurred in the city of Mathbaria, in the south, when thousands of supporters of the government party, the Awami League, clashed with police after snatching ballot boxes to take them to the government headquarters in the area. The opposition BNP party, which returned to electoral politics in 2015 after months of protests and a boycott of several elections, noted that there had been numerous cases of electoral violence. The party said that the country's Electoral Commission was responsible for the deaths during the local elections because it had done nothing to prevent violence and fraud. As a result, it called for the resignation of the head of the commission. The BNP said that 22 people had died in election violence. (AFP, 23/3/16; bdnews24.com, 24/3/16)
BELGIUM: Over 30 people are killed and about 300 are wounded in a double attack in Brussels for which ISIS claims responsibility
A double suicide attack in the Belgian capital of Brussels killed 32 people and wounded around 300. The attacks occurred on the morning of 22 March at Zaventem Airport, one of the main airports in Europe, and at the underground train station in the district of Maalbeek, in the heart of the city and near European institutions. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. A search and arrest warrant had been issued for Khalid El Bakraoui, one of the authors of the double attack in Brussels, for his implication in the attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people and left over 360 wounded. There is also evidence that another person implicated in the attacks in Paris, Najim Laachraoui, also participated in the double attack in Brussels. As such, the double attack took place a few days after the arrest in Brussels of one of the men suspected in participating in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam. Belgium raised the highest level of alarm after the attacks and the government announced that it would expand its campaign against ISIS, since attacks had thus far been restricted to Iraq. The attack prompted international criticism and condemnation, including in the UN Security Council, which called for efforts to intensify regional and international forces to tackle terrorism and violent extremism. (The Guardian, BBC, Reuters, 22-31/03/16)
COMORAS: Tension increased running up to the election in the country
The Constitutional Court validated the first round of the presidential elections held on February 21 and the second round of elections would thus be held on April 10 amidst rising tension. Three candidates compete to take over from the outgoing president, Ikililou Dhoinine. 19 of the 25 candidates from the first-round reported fraud and called for an impartial recount. Among them is Colonel Assoumani Azali, who staged a coup in 1999 and won the 2002 elections, after which he ruled for four years until 2006. However, although it acknowledged that some irregularities had existed, the Constitutional Court decided that they had not had an impact on the results and ruled that the process had been clean. In April, the competing candidates include the current vice president, Mohamed Ali Solihi, with 17.6% of the vote, the governor of Grand Comore, Mouigni Baraka Said Solihi, who came in second, and Assoumani, in third place. The climate of tension was visible in acts of protest. The vehicles of several high-level members of the administration, including members of the Constitutional Court, were set on fire. These elections are limited to the residents of Grand Comore, since the electoral system on the islands stipulates that every four years the presidency is held by someone from a different island. In 2006 it was Anjouan’s turn and in 2010 Moheli’s. (RFI, 16/03/16)
REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Violence and insecurity persists in the east of the country
Violence and insecurity persisted in the north-east of the country where different armed groups looted and attacked the civilian population daily. Efforts were being made by the Congolese Armed Forces to curb the climate of instability. On February 29 a new attack by the Ugandan armed group ADF killed at least 13 people in towns in the Beni region (northern part of North Kivu province). At the same time, in the southern region of Lubero, North Kivu province, fighting broke out between the Mai Mai militia and forces linked to the Rwandan Hutu armed group FDLR and the Nyatura militias. Additionally, movements of combatants belonging to the M23 armed group have been reported. Two activists who were arrested on March 15 during a pro-democracy workshop started a hunger strike. The two young men were Fred Bauma and Ives Mwakambala (members of the opposition social movements Filimbi and LUCHA). Nine days later they brought the hunger strike to an end. (Africa Confidential, 19/02/16; Radio Okapi, 15, 17 y 19/03/16; Jeune Afrique, 23/03/16)
LIBYA: Leaders of the new UN-backed government arrive in Tripoli amidst resistance and in defiance of threats made by militias
The prime minister and leader of the new unity government of Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj, arrived in Tripoli on the last day of March accompanied by seven other members of the Presidential Council despite resistance from many sectors and threats from militias. Given the fact that the airspace is closed by the powers that currently control Tripoli, the leaders of the new UN-backed government had to travel to the capital of Libya by sea from Tunisia, arriving at the Abusita naval base. In mid-March, the United States and various European countries recognised the new national unity government as the sole legitimate authority in Libya. However, the new unity government that emerged from the agreements adopted in Morocco in December 2015 is not recognised by the authorities that had thus far claimed to control the country, the General National Congress (GNC) based in Tripoli and the House of Representatives, based in the eastern region of Libya. According to what was established in the agreement in December, the list of ministers of the new government was supposed to be approved by the House of Representatives, but this did not come to pass amidst the climate of violence and insecurity in the country. In this context, the Presidential Council interpreted the support of around 100 members of the House of Representatives (the majority) as backing for the proclamation of the new government. According to various analysts, the new unity government is expected to seek help from the international community to train the Libyan Army and combat the presence of the armed group ISIS in the territory. Sources close to the Libyan Political Dialogue confirmed that the new government intends to request logistical assistance in terms of training or selective attacks against ISIS, but ensured that the deployment of foreign military forces in the country is not expected. Several analysts agreed that al-Sarraj’s most immediate challenge is to take control of the capital of Libya. (The Guardian, 15, 30, 31/03/16; UNSMIL, 14/03/16)
MEXICO: IACHR report denounces grave human rights violations
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report stating that there is a grave human rights crisis in Mexico, due in part to the impunity that has persisted in the country since the so-called "war on drugs”, launched during President Felipe Calderón’s presidency (2006-2012). In the report, the IACHR underscored the serious situation in the country with regard to forced disappearances - 26,798 reported cases - extrajudicial executions and torture -2,420 investigations opened- as well as the situation of citizen insecurity, forced displacement of the population, access to justice, impunity, and the situation of journalists, human rights defenders and other groups especially affected by the context of national violence. The IACHR stated that the country has reached alarming levels of violence and made recommendations to the Mexican state to break the prevailing cycle of impunity, to provide effective crime prevention, and to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for human rights violations.
REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: President Denis Sassou-Nguesso wins the elections once again amid allegations of fraud by the opposition
72 year old President Denis Sassou-Nguesso won the March 20 elections and extended his 32 years in power after the final election results were made public and he was declared the winner in the first round with 60% of the votes. The official results gave Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas 15% of the votes, while the third candidate, General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, obtained slightly more than 14%. The two main opposition candidates rejected the partial results published by the election commission that gave Sassou-Nguesso 67% of the votes. That number was subsequently lowered to 60% in a statement by the Interior Minister when he announced the final count. Tensions were high during the election day and some sporadic shooting was reported. Communications were shut down between March 20 and 23 (internet and mobile phone messages) to prevent opposition candidates from publishing their own results. Tension has been high in the country since the Government reformed the constitution in October 2015 to eliminate the two-mandate limit established by the Constitution, which allowed the president to run for the office again. Sassou-Nguesso has been widely criticized for nepotism, for limiting democracy and freedom in the country, and his Government has been plagued by cases of corruption. Security forces patrolled the capital to quell possible protests. At least 18 people were killed as a result of actions by security forces during the protests against the October constitutional reform. The opposition candidates that claimed that the elections were a fraud called for a campaign of civil disobedience. Participation was high at a demonstration that was held in the south of the capital, which is an opposition stronghold, although few people attended in the north of Brazzaville, where Sassou-Nguesso’s support is strong. The United States stated that it had received numerous reports of irregularities during the elections and criticized the Government's decision to cut off communications. (Reuters, 22/03/16; Al Jazeera, 24/03/16; NYT, 30/03/16)
RUSSIA (DAGESTAN): ISIS claims responsibility for an attack on a police convoy amidst a continuing atmosphere of insecurity and human rights violations
The armed group ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack in late March on a police convoy travelling along a stretch of the Kavkaz federal motorway near the city of Kaspiysk. The double explosion killed one police officer and wounded another. The Russian authorities arrested various people accused of being linked to ISIS in Dagestan during the month, including in the district of Khasavyurt, leading to several deaths. Counterterrorist measures were imposed in various places. These kinds of measures, which are imposed relatively frequently in the republic, have been singled out by human rights organisations on a number of occasions for their impact in terms of human rights violations. The leader of the lezgin community of Dagestan and representative of the Sadval movement, Nazim Gadzhiyev, was assassinated at the end of the month. Incidents were also reported in other republics in the northern Caucasus, including human rights abuses and attacks on civilians. In the Chechen Republic, masked men attacked a group of journalists, including some international ones, and anti-torture activists near the border with Ingushetia. Moreover, family members of the poet Hussein Betelgeriev reported that he had disappeared. In Ingushetia, an attack near a mosque in the district of Nazir-Kort in Nazran was considered an attack against its imam. Several people were wounded in the attack. (Caucasian Knot, 1-31/03/16)
UKRAINE (EAST): Accusations of ceasefire violations continue, despite the general reduction in casualties
In March, the Ukrainian government and the armed groups of eastern Ukraine traded blame for various ceasefire violations. Ukraine reported the use of large-calibre weapons by the eastern forces and the deaths of several soldiers due to incidents in the first half of the month. Starting in mid-March, the OSCE observation mission detected a certain increase in incidents near Avdiivka and Yasynuvata (in the Donetsk region, 17 kilometres from the capital of the region, Donetsk) and warned of the respective forces’ closer approach to the line of contact in Donetsk and the risks of further escalation. Faced with deteriorating security in the areas around Donetsk at the end of the month, ceasefire violations continued to drop in frequency in Luhansk. The incidents contrast with the context of markedly less casualties in recent months. The new report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which covers the period from mid-November to mid-February, indicated a reduction in hostilities and a decrease in the number of victims (21 civilians killed and 57 wounded, compared to 47 killed and 131 wounded between mid-August and mid-November). Most of the civilian casualties were attributed to remnants of explosives and improvised explosive devices. Even so, the report identified systematic ceasefire violations in January and February and firefights in various areas, especially near the cities of Donetsk and Horlivka and in places near the contact area. Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union expanded the sanctions related to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In domestic matters, the political crisis continued in Ukraine. The coalition government parties did not reach an agreement to form a new coalition enabling the appointment of a new prime minister. (UN, RFE/RL, Reuters, 1-30/03/16)
MYANMAR: Parliament appoints Htin Kyaw as new president of the first civilian government in decades
Myanmar's parliament elected Htin Kyaw as the country's new president. Kyaw is considered Aung San Suu Kyi’s right hand man, in addition to being a friend of the leader. Despite the fact that she is the leader of the NLD party that won an overwhelming victory in the elections, Suu Kyi was not able to run for president herself, since the Burmese Constitution prohibits persons with foreign children from holding the office. Aung San Suu Kyi will, however, head the cabinet posts of foreign affairs, president's office, and the education and energy ministries. It had earlier been rumoured that the Burmese leader might not hold any offices in the Government, but that she would head the party from Parliament. Her appointment as a minister will force her to give up her seat. She will be the only woman minister in the new government, the first civilian administration in decades. The Armed Forces, known as Tatmadaw, will continue to hold considerable power and the Ministers of Defence, Interior and Border Affairs will be appointed by the commander in chief of the Armed Forces and chosen from its ranks. The Constitution states that the power reserved for the military cannot be changed without the consent of the Armed Forces. (La Vanguardia, 15/3/16; The Guardian, 22 y 31/3/16)
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